The term physically disabled has always felt stigmatized in society, and for good reason. The word disabled just places a label on someone, and it leaves them there to be judged. Personally, the term has been said to me countless times, and once said, it just sits there. There is nothing but staleness in between myself and the person. They generally ask, “Hey, you walk a little funny. Is everything okay? Do you have a disability?”
Photo: Steven HWG on Unsplash
Yes, I do. However, that doesn’t make me disabled per se. It just makes me, and other people with physical disabilities, deal with complications other people don’t have to worry about. Like going on a run. For some, this is as easy as breathing. Personally, I find it difficult to breathe if I run for more than a few minutes, because of how I walk. It’s a technicality I have to work around. That’s just it though. You try to work through it, and you live with it. You don’t just sit there living with the label society has slapped on your forehead.
I have mild Cerebral Palsy (CP), and have spent more hours in physical therapy, a doctor’s office, and hospitals than I care to share. I’ve seen many other children and young adults, like myself, all sitting in waiting room after waiting room, feeling the same — labelled. Judged by people who don’t even know our story or situation.
Physical disability is just an umbrella term for someone who has physical difficulties. In many cases, these arise from before birth or during the birthing process. There are many physical disabilities besides CP, such as Multiple Sclerosis, Epilepsy, and Spina Bifida. No two people with the same disability have the same symptoms or complications. I struggle with the right side of my body, specifically, my right leg. Other people with CP could have complications in both legs. There are varying levels of severity with each disability. While some people might just walk differently, others have to be fit for braces, and they use walkers until progress is made or use a wheelchair. So while we all might look “disabled,” it really isn’t the nuts and bolts of what is happening in our body. Each person has their own story and issues to deal with. I found it hardest as a child, because you don’t necessarily understand why you are different. You also don’t understand what the big deal is until people start asking questions.
Physical disabilities or being physically “disabled” has its challenges, but sometimes there are surreal moments. Making progress or helping someone understand your condition is very rewarding. Having an open mind and looking at the person, not their limitations, is how people should approach one another. Too often we are quick to judge, and that is something I’ll never forget about my childhood. Everyone had an opinion, and never listened to mine or my story. So, the next time you meet someone with a “physical disability,” take a moment. Don’t ask questions right away. See if he/she engage the conversation and are open to your questions. I love sharing my story once I get to know someone, and I feel as though they are open and receptive. Besides being supportive, educating yourself is the best thing to do.
Olivia Orme is a twenty-two-year-old recent graduate of Wofford College. She majored in English and Government, but her true passion is creative writing. She has written poetry for the last decade, but has plenty of opinions on lifestyle, beauty, and body positivity. She is currently a kindergarten teaching assistant, but wants to go back to graduate school for a Master’s in English. She aspires to write a children’s book series someday. You can always find her with a cup of coffee, or talking about Riverdale.